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The Rise and Fall of AC Milan & Inter

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An interesting article about the two Milan clubs for those (like me) who weren't exactly sure why they've fallen so badly. The article was written in October but still fairly relevant:

 

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The rise and fall of AC Milan and Inter - why both clubs must ditch imperious self-regard and accept the old days are gone

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AC Milan and Inter Milan The glory days of the Milan giants now seem a distant memory
20 OCTOBER 2016 • 11:00AM

Last summer the red stripes on AC Milan’s famous shirts no longer concealed the bleeding. In the five years since winning their 18th Serie A title in 2011, they have burned through six caretakers and supposedly long-term managers and finished 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 10th and 7th.

When they won their seventh European Cup in 2007, Milan were five ahead of Barcelona and only two behind Real Madrid but in the past nine years Real have extended their lead by two more, Barca have closed to within two of Europe’s second most successful club and in 2010 San Siro co-tenants and eternal rivals Internazionale won their first for 45 years.

Inter, whose 18th title was also their last to date, won as part of The Treble under Jose Mourinho six years ago, are at the bottom of their group and host Southampton in the Europa League on Thursday. They, too, have toiled five years without a trophy and are now on their eighth full-time or interim manager since 2010. Successive defeats have left them 11th in Serie A. The dark blue and black of their illustrious stripes cannot camouflage the bruises.

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho led Inter to Champions League glory in 2010 CREDIT: EPA

It is not difficult to identify what precisely has gone wrong, though the causes are so manifold they are easier to locate with grapeshot than with a pinpoint. Both clubs relied on Italy’s genius for prolonging veteran players’ careers: Inter’s Champions League-winning squad of 2010 had seasoned thirtysomethings Javier Zanetti, Francesco Toldo, Marco Materazzi, Lucio, Walter Samuel, Dejan Stankovic, Ivan Cordoba and Diego Milito as key influences. Between them they had more than 4,000 games’ experience.

Inter Milan
Inter Milan's 2010 winning team CREDIT: AFP

In Milan’s title-winning squad a year later Andrea Pirlo was 32, Christian Abbiati and Gennaro Gattuso 33, Massimo Ambrosini and Mark van Bommel a year older, Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf 35 and Pippo Inzaghi 37.

And yet of all those players it was only Pirlo who left in the summer of 2011, aggrieved at being offered merely a one-year contract. Off he went to Juventus to win four consecutive scudetti and grow the beard that persuaded the gullible to venerate him as not only a wise and decent man but as a kind of philosopher king.

Paolo Maldini and Andrea Pirlo
Paolo Maldini and Andrea Pirlo (right) CREDIT: AP

Succession planning is important at every club but even more so at elite ones who triumph with the high wire act of winning things with a group of old players. As Manchester United found out in 2013, it’s lovely to have a league title to celebrate but there are consequences only weeks later when you try to plug the gap left by Paul Scholes’ (second) retirement or take the strain off 32-year-old Michael Carrick and find all you’ve got is Nick Powell.

Similarly, in the summer of 2010 Inter banked the compensation from Real Madrid for Jose Mourinho, appointed Rafa Benitez, sold Mario Balotelli to Manchester City for €30m, bought a reserve goalkeeper and tinkered around on the peripheries with co-ownership deals.

When, five days after winning the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi in December 2010, Benitez asked for significant purchases during the forthcoming transfer window, he was rebuffed and left the club ‘by mutual consent’.

Rafa Benitez and Samuel Eto'o
Rafa Benitez and Samuel Eto'o were both shipped out at Inter CREDIT: REUTERS

In his stead came Leonardo, the former Milan manager, who won the Coppa Italia but left in the summer following a dispute over investment. By the end of 2009, Massimo Moratti had funded a transfer trading deficit over the 14 years of his ownership to the tune of €356m. But in 2011 Financial Fair Play began to bite for the first time and a club as heavily subsidised as Inter had been faced sanctions from Uefa if they continued to live beyond their means.

Total losses from 1995-2011 topped €1bn. Such largesse had allowed Moratti in 2010 to emulate his father Angelo’s presidency by winning the European Cup, but with the new restrictions – which he had lobbied for - he could no longer fill the breach if Inter were going to break even as stipulated by 2014.

Massimo Moratti
Massimo Moratti won the European Cup as Inter owner CREDIT: AP

The problem was, there was nothing to compensate for the money he ploughed in from the profits he made in the oil business. As tenants of San Siro, Inter’s match-day proceeds were a quarter of Manchester United’s and the Premier League’s TV deal was more than double Serie A’s and about to mushroom again.

While Inter could match English and Spanish clubs for sponsorship deals, their resources were dwarfed by their competitors’ revenues. Compare three oil-funded clubs – Inter, Manchester City and Chelsea - and it’s the latter two who now have the subsidiary income after enormous initial investment that largely funds their running costs. Moratti may have been a magnate but could no longer afford to boost the club with impunity.

So, from Balotelli’s move to City onwards, Inter largely became a selling club. Samuel Eto’o left in 2011, Goran Pandev in 2012, Wesley Sneijder and Philippe Coutinho in 2013. In November 2013 after a botched sale of a majority stake to Kenneth Huang, Moratti sold 70 per cent to Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir who pledged to stabilise the finances and rebuild the club as a self-sufficient business.

Erick Thohir
Massimo Moratti sold 70 per cent to Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir (left) CREDIT:GETTY IMAGES

Before appointing Roberto Mancini in 2004, Moratti had appointed 13 managers in nine years and in the four years after Mourinho left in 2010, he went through Benitez, Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri, Andrea Stramaccioni and Walter Mazzari.

Thohir re-hired Mancini in late 2014 and allowed him to reinvest about half the receipts for Fredy Guarin, Mateo Kovacic, Hernanes and Xherdan Shaqiri the following summer but they faded after a promising start and finished fourth, 24 points behind Juventus.

In June Suning Holding Group, founded by the tycoon Zhang Jindong, bought out Thohir and Moratti. For the first time in seven years, Inter paid out more than they recouped, including €45m for Joao Maria, but Mancini was sacked after poor pre-season results and replaced by Frank De Boer 13 days before the start of Serie A. Financial stability may have been achieved at last but it is yet to cure the other infected parts of a severely debilitated club.

It has been a similar story at Milan – the club hamstrung by renting the same ground from the municipal council. When Silvio Berlusconi joined Moratti in supporting Financial Fair Play, it seems they had not bargained for the inflation in television and matchday income generated by English and Spanish teams that would enable them to invest more without incurring penalties nor the extent to which Juventus’s decision to stop being tenants and build their own ground would rocket them out of the Milan clubs’ financial league.

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi (centre) has watched his beloved Milan slip behind CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

They started selling their best assets earlier than Inter – Kaka in 2009, Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2012 – and tried to mask their strategy by signing big name players with few miles left on the clock and no re-sale value, among them Ronaldinho, Kaka a second time, David Beckham on loan, Michael Essien and Fernando Torres.

Despite a huge churn of players, systemic reform at youth and academy level, the hard work of elite development and fostering club culture, was avoided in preference for the quick fix – give the manager’s job to a favoured son and demand a miracle.

David Beckham
David Beckham once played for Milan CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Where Berlusconi had the drive 20 years before to rebuild an institution, now the club was in the business of providing instant gratification on the cheap, whether to gild the septuagenarian’s lily as prime minister or, after his fall from office, to set a few hares running for a possible comeback. Leonardo, Seedorf and Inzaghi each took the helm but left disillusioned before they could begin a second season in charge.

In the summer of 2015 when FFP had proved a busted flush, Berlusconi splurged €80m on five players but without a proper structure in place succeeded only in moving up from 10th to 7th in the league in spite of Carlos Bacca’s 18 goals.

After a two-year saga and a couple of months before his 80th birthday, Berlusconi accepted the position of honorary president and finally sold the club he had owned for 30 years to a Chinese private equity fund for €520m plus a further €220m to cover Milan’s debts.

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi sold Milan to a Chinese group for €520 million CREDIT: REUTERS

Now both Milan clubs are owned by Chinese investors. Gleaming trophy rooms are no longer a constant reminder of failure when you have the opportunity of a fresh start. And there are signs, fleeting in Inter’s case but a league victory over champions Juventus is not to be sniffed at, that long overdue revivals are gradually building momentum if only some consistency can be found.

In the past decade heritage businesses have gone to the wall repeatedly, when ambition has outstripped resources and an institution attempts to sustain itself by devouring its own human assets. Add in impulsive magnates treating failure as a personal slur but confined to shifting what’s left of the furniture rather than replacing it - and decline becomes unavoidable.

When Inter visit St Mary’s for the return in a fortnight, they will be received by a stable club with a long-term vision, who were in the third tier of English football when Mourinho won The Treble. Until both Milan clubs are prudent enough to finance the construction of their own grounds, their only hope is to ditch their self-regard and imperious thinking and follow Saints’ model.

 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2016/10/20/the-rise-and-fall-of-ac-milan-and-inter---why-both-clubs-must-di/

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The same could be said of a lot of clubs. ahem, Arsenal.

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6 minutes ago, Spike said:

The same could be said of a lot of clubs. ahem, Arsenal.

Arsenal have definitely had some embarrassing moments but generally they compete at their level, less finances than Chelsea, City and United, more than Spurs, Everton etc. Every season they're within their bracket.

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14 minutes ago, Danny said:

Arsenal have definitely had some embarrassing moments but generally they compete at their level, less finances than Chelsea, City and United, more than Spurs, Everton etc. Every season they're within their bracket.

Do they really have less finances than those teams? Arsenal are frugal and considerate.

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It wasn't that long ago that AC and Inter were both dominant forces. But like all things in this world, there are ebbs and flows and it certainly has been down for both Milan clubs. I think it's mostly has to do with economics and the fact that Italian economics have been an absolute mess recently. I fully expect both clubs to be back.

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They are both clubs that got lazy and lived off of one man's fortune for decades. Then suddenly in the early parts of this decade realised this and are now paying the price. If you look up the two Milan clubs losses from 2007-2010, you can see why they turned into selling clubs overnight.

Because of their laziness, they never worried about the huge wages they paid out, the countless players brought in and loaned out for no money, the age of the players brought in. And most worrying of all, they never had to bother with giving young players a chance. The short string that these players were on ended up with Inter selling Coutinho and Milan selling Aubameyang without really getting a shot at the first team. How'd they'd love to have them back.

They also never had to modernise and think about their matchday income and fanbase. They've never really bothered to upgrade San Siro or make a matchday a more enjoyable experience. Hence it's not surprising that the vast majority of fans just watch matches on television.

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Laziness pretty much sums it up. Shit owners and piss poor recruitment. Montolivo as AC Milan's captain for a few years sums up the downfall perfectly. 

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12 minutes ago, ScoRoss said:

They are both clubs that got lazy and lived off of one man's fortune for decades. Then suddenly in the early parts of this decade realised this and are now paying the price. If you look up the two Milan clubs losses from 2007-2010, you can see why they turned into selling clubs overnight.

Because of their laziness, they never worried about the huge wages they paid out, the countless players brought in and loaned out for no money, the age of the players brought in. And most worrying of all, they never had to bother with giving young players a chance. The short string that these players were on ended up with Inter selling Coutinho and Milan selling Aubameyang without really getting a shot at the first team. How'd they'd love to have them back.

They also never had to modernise and think about their matchday income and fanbase. They've never really bothered to upgrade San Siro or make a matchday a more enjoyable experience. Hence it's not surprising that the vast majority of fans just watch matches on television.

I was livid when Inter sold Countinho.

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I''d agree it was laziness, they depended on their old players too much and were content with getting "rentals" to temporarily fix things. While it's true in Italy you can play longer, when half your starters around 33 and up their is an issue you need to fix, and not just by like I said before loans...

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An interesting if somewhat depressing read. I used to be quite into Italian football growing up in the early-mid 2000s, the first match I ever remember watching on TV was the 2003 CL final between AC Milan and Juventus, and the shootout at the end involving probably the best goalkeeper in the world and probably the best penalty saving goalkeeper in the world at that time.

I do think a lot of it is to do with the mass exodus of players in such a short time period and their substandard replacements. I honestly can't think of a player for AC or Inter at the minute who's better than their counterpart from roughly a decade ago. I think only Buffon is left at the top from Italian football of that era.

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Even last summer when Inter brought in Ansaldi and Erkin, for competition for full backs. Both in their late 20s and not an improvement on what they had. Why even spend that much on Ansaldi, when they could've promoted Dimarco and had him as a back-up. 

They need to say to get Pioli on a long term deal and make it clear that he is their manager and give him an opportunity to build a team. Rather than the constant band-aid signings that they've been blighted with.

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It's sad to see, really. I prefer Juventus and Lazio to the Milan clubs, but they (especially AC Milan) had been a mainstay in the European top flight for as long as I've been following football, so it's weird to see them and Inter in 6th and 7th place. What's worse is that. if that story is anything to go by, the odds of them bouncing back are against them for now.

On 4/11/2017 at 3:34 AM, Spike said:

The same could be said of a lot of clubs. ahem, Arsenal.

Comparable yes, but that situation is still different seeing as Arsenal mostly played second fiddle to Man Utd even in their glory years, and that was before the advent of the rich man clubs in England.

Meanwhile, AC Milan was the strongest team in Europe between the decline of the Galácticos and the rebirth of Barcelona, with Inter meanwhile dominating the Serie A after the Juve scandal.

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On 14/04/2017 at 16:19, ScoRoss said:

Even last summer when Inter brought in Ansaldi and Erkin, for competition for full backs. Both in their late 20s and not an improvement on what they had. Why even spend that much on Ansaldi, when they could've promoted Dimarco and had him as a back-up.

Inter should just give me a consultancy job... :coffee:

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